Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

Not so long ago, the idea of a cheap 4K TV felt like a dream. Now that the market is flooded with them, there’s a new aspiration for a cheap 4K TV that performs like a much more expensive flagship. That’s the value proposition that Vizio has offered for years, although the approach has seemed gimmicky at times. The new Vizio P-Series Quantum, however, makes good on the promise of affordable excellence thanks to good old fashioned performance.

Vizio’s P-Series Quantum is not cheap at $1,400 for a 65-inch TV. That’s not the point. The new Vizio sports an octo-core processor, and it supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision. With quantum dot technology, 200 local dimming zones, and a peak brightness of 1,100 nits, the specs on the new P-Series Quantum are comparable to TVs twice that price. And if those specs aren’t impressive enough, Vizio also offers a new model this year called the P-Series Quantum X that boasts up to 480 local dimming zones and a peak brightness of up to 3,000.

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Thanks to a recent software update, all Vizio TVs now support Apple AirPlay 2.0, and like most Vizios, this TV also has Chromecast built-in. It’s a great value on paper, and after spending a couple of months with the TV, I can confidently say that the experience of watching it lives up to the hype.

One of the great joys of an excellent TV is the extent to which you can forget that you’re staring at a screen. The best displays offer vivid, accurate colors, sharp detail, and smooth gradations—just like your eyes see in real life. In other words, you know you’re looking at a great TV, when you’re not spotting its shortcomings. And that’s exactly how I felt while staring at the Vizio P-Series Quantum. The colors look rich and vibrant without appearing oversaturated. Details are crisp, even in fast action scenes where other TVs might struggle. I also never noticed any banding—a telltale sign that a display struggles with gradation—on blue skies or black spaces. The new Vizio did struggle a bit with detail on the darker end of the black spectrum, but it still performed admirably with extremely challenging content like the infamously too dark episode of Game of Thrones.

As I implied above, the Vizio P-Series Quantum pulls off this great performance thanks to guts that are typically found in much more expensive sets. The quantum dot technology in the display is certainly something you typically see in TVs that cost over $2,000, and it’s more than just marketing jargon. Quantum dot displays use semiconductor nanocrystals to reproduce a wider range of red, green, and blue that standard LED displays. They’re also capable of higher contrast and blacker blacks typically. Using a SpectraCal C6 colorimeter and CalMAN’sprofessional TV calibration software, we tested the performance of these pixels and found the colors on the P-Series Quantum to be incredibly accurate with zero calibration—meaning you wouldn’t need to spend $500 on calibration to get take a solid set to a great set.

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Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

This is where the new TV starts to feel intriguing. The P-Series Quantum actually debuted last year, albeit with a slightly different design and specs. The 65-inch version of that TV, which we loved, only had 192 local dimming zones compared to the new model’s 200. Last year’s P-Series Quantum also had less accurate colors in our testing, and the black performance was weaker than it is in the latest P-Series Quantum. These might seem like iterative improvements until you realize that last year’s 65-inch model cost $2,200 at launch, and the new P-Series Quantum is just $1,400. At the time of this review, Vizio was selling the 75-inch model for $2,000, though it has a list price of $2,300.

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Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

So it seems we have a new chapter in the familiar Vizio story. The company got its start selling bargain-basement TVs at Costco and has gradually been improving the performance of these sets while keeping prices well below those of companies like Samsung and LG. It’s safe to say that the new P-Series Quantum is positioned as a competitor to Samsung’s new Q90R quantum dot TV, which starts at $2,800 for a 65-inch model. LG’s flagship OLED, the C9, also costs $2,800 for the same size. Some very simple math reveals that Vizio has priced the P-Series Quantum at exactly half that cost.

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The big question is whether Vizio’s latest attempt at affordable performance can really compete with these pricey TVs. Last year, I said that the Vizio P-Series Quantum came pretty darn close, although you could notice that its blacks couldn’t quite compete with the inky darkness of LG’s entry-level OLED. This year, I’m inclined to say that the new and improved P-Series Quantum is remarkably close to matching the LG and Samsung. While we haven’t yet reviewed the new Samsung QLED or the new LG OLED, our fancy display testing tools showed numbers we’ve only seen in much more expensive sets. We look forward to doing a side-by-side comparison when we can get our hands on all three models at once. We suspect that the untrained eye would not be able to spot which TV is half the price of the others based on image quality alone.

Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

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Then again, the P-Series Quantum is not perfect. Although it usually performed well on the gradation front, we did notice some banding issues in some very dark scenes. We also spotted some instances of blooming on solid color fields, and the TV struggled slightly with precision in finer details. But it’s important to point out that I noticed these things mostly when looking at test charts like these, not while watching movies or shows.

The other drawbacks of the new P-Series Quantum that did bug us were familiar: the remote and the SmartCast 3.0 operating system. The remote is the same one Vizio has been shipping with its TVs for the past couple of years, and it’s simply awkward to use at times. It’s bigger than it needs to be with a number pad that seems unnecessary at a time when streaming content is the norm. The buttons also feel too low profile, so much so that it’s hard to tell where the volume rocker is without looking. Meanwhile, the SmartCast 3.0 software is better than it used to be, but Vizio’s continued insistence on supporting a limited number of apps remains frustrating. You do get apps for major streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but if you want to watch HBO content, you have to access through a mobile app and then stream it to the TV using Chromecast or AirPlay.

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Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

Neither of these things are even close to being dealbreakers. You can get used to the remote over time or just buy a universal remote you like. You might also avoid the Vizio remote altogether by using a set-top box like a Roku or Fire TV. This solution comes with the handy bonus of helping you avoid using SmartCast. Heck, since the P-Series Quantum is already such a great value, you could even spring for a fancy Apple TV, although you already get a lot of those features with the welcome addition of AirPlay 2.0 on Vizio TVs.

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What’s probably most exciting about the new P-Series Quantum is the future it invites us to hope for. Alongside the release of this model, Vizio also brought quantum dot technology to its very affordable M-Series, which is now called M-Series Quantum. Those TVs aren’t as bright or precise as the P-Series, but they start at just $450 for a 50-inch model. That makes you wonder if the quality of the P-Series Quantum will continue to trickle down along with the prices. Even still the P-Series Quantum is the best deal in top-notch TVs right now.

README

  • Very accurate colors
  • Sharp details thanks to 200 local dimming zones
  • Half the price of competing TVs from Samsung and LG
  • Now supports AirPlay 2.0
  • Remote needs a redesign

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